Charter College will begin providing dental care to adults and children at the clinic on its Bellingham campus after July 20.
The clinic, which includes five stations known as operatories, isn’t new. Students in the college’s dental assisting program have been using the clinic to work on each other as part of their training, with a dentist coming in every once in a while.
What’s new is that senior students will work with a dentist and provide services to the public after the clinic’s grand opening on Friday, July 20. After that, services will be offered once a week on Wednesdays and every other Saturday.
Services will include new patient exams, cleanings, simple extractions, restorative treatment (composite and amalgam fillings), and impressions and fabrication of custom home bleach trays and night guards.
The clinic had a soft opening Friday, June 29, in which students and a dentist provided some services to Charter employees, students and family.
The idea in having students work with dentists and strangers — what college President Ron Price called the “chair-side experience” — is to increase their confidence before they work in dental offices for internships prior to their graduation.
Doing so will allow students to get over the nervousness that comes with working on patients other than their schoolmates, Price said.
“We want more hands-on experience for them,” said Linda Valle, one of the dental assistant program’s instructors and head of the clinic.
The new dental care the private college is offering will provide a service to the community, Charter College officials said.
Fees for its services will be discounted, and the clinic accepts most dental insurance.
Charter College representatives said the clinic is ideal for people who don’t have a regular dentist, or don’t have insurance.
“We want more opportunities and places for people to come,” Valle said.
Such services are needed, especially for low-income adults.
“I’m delighted to hear about this, because there continues to be a shortage of affordable dental care options for adults,” said Lara Welker, program manager at Whatcom Alliance for Healthcare Access and chairman of Whatcom County Oral Health Coalition.
Welker said Bellingham Technical College offers a similar service through its teaching clinic, but its well-established program often has a waiting list.
BTC’s low-cost dental services are on a cash-only basis.
In Whatcom County, what the poor said they need most was affordable dental care, according to the 2011 Whatcom Prosperity Project, a survey and report of people living in poverty.
It was also the service they said they were least likely to get.
CHARTER DENTAL CLINIC
What: Grand opening of the Charter College Dental Clinic in Bellingham.
When: The ribbon cutting and open house is 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, July 20.
Where: 410 W. Bakerview Road, Suite 112, in Bellingham.
RSVP: Call 360-647-5000 by July 18
Clinic hours: After July 20, the clinic will be open Wednesdays 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. and every other Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
To schedule an appointment: Call the clinic at 360-255-6770.